Going Home

We left Brewton, Alabama, on a steamy Sunday afternoon. The streets were somewhat empty. A lone cat roamed local backyards. A redheaded kid who looked suspiciously like Ron Howard kicked a rock on the sidewalk.

My wife squeezed my hand as we drove away from her hometown.

“I love you,” she said with a watery smile.

I said it back.

We’ve been saying those words a lot this past week, ever since we came here to lay my wife’s mother in the ground.

Something about funerals brings out the need to be loved. And perhaps this is why my wife squeezed my hand so tightly as we left behind the city of antique homes, potted ferns and immaculate landscaping. Perhaps this was why my wife squeezed tighter still as we loped beneath the long-armed oaks and a summer sky that was blue enough to break your heart.

Because it was all over now.

The weeping and laughing. The eating funeral cake and drinking lukewarm milk. The sobbing on the back porch until three in the morning. The unexpected moment when your wife wakes up in the middle of the night, crying, because she now realizes she’s a middle-aged orphan.

The build-up to a funeral is nothing short of theatrical. A funeral is basically a huge party wherein everyone you know attends and has a terrible time. Coordinating such an elaborate event is like dreaming up the biggest party of your lifetime and only having five days to plan it.

For a solid week, my wife’s mind had been stuck in “homegoing mode.” She had been concentrating on details like accommodations for guests, wardrobe malfunctions, pallbearers, and making sure everyone had enough calories.

But today, as we wheeled toward our Florida home doing fifty-five, we left these memories in our rear view mirror.

She tightened her grip on my hand as we left the Yellowhammer State, bound for our little house in the big woods behind the ugly Walmart. The love nest we built, long ago, tucked among the beat-up doublewides and the rusted satellite dishes.

“I love you,” she said, breaking the quiet between us.

I said it back.

Then we fell silent again.

And for some reason, I was thinking about how one of the things I like most about my wife and I is that we are not tidy people. Oh, don’t get me wrong, we’re not slobs, we take care of our stuff, and we occasionally bathe. But my wife and I are not neat freaks. And I love that.

We are the couple your mother warned you about. We are basically big kids who keep getting away with not making our bed. In fact, my wife and I can go days without making our bed. Weeks even.

Also, we have been letting piles of clean laundry mount on our kitchen table since the day we got married almost twenty years ago. Today, our clean laundry pile looks like a miniature Mount Vesuvius waiting to blow. And I’m pretty sure that beneath this mountain of garments is the dress my wife wore to our wedding.

But here’s the thing: this is our laundry pile. This disorderly life, it’s all ours. That’s why I love it. And today, it’s time to go back to living it again. Death is behind us. Life is full speed ahead.

When we blew past the “Welcome to Florida” sign, my wife and I lifted our feet and held our breath.

We always do this because my wife’s late mother would always lift her feet and hold her breath when she crossed state lines. She did this well into her old age, even when her feet and lungs quit working.

We held hands again. Because now it was all hitting us. It’s now our turn to carry on stupid traditions like this. It’s our turn to invent silly games and teach them to others. It’s our turn to start becoming the next old people. Just like it’s also our turn to live rich, full lives the way our departed loved ones would want.

When we arrived home, it was a veritable canine party. Our two dogs tackled us as soon as we turned the doorknob. The ninety-pound animals with the enormous paws and the long Ripley’s-Believe-It-or-Not tongues howled with delight.

In only moments my wife was sprawl-legged on the floor with two joyous animals crawling upon her, licking her forehead, knocking off her sunglasses.

I saw her eyes close tightly. I heard a big laugh erupt from her mouth. Two solitary tears rolled down her precious cheeks.

I sat beside her on the floor, immediately surrounded by animals. I joined hands with my wife. She squeezed my fingers until my knuckles hurt and my wrist popped. She had pink eyes. I had a full heart.

“I love you,” she said.

I said it back.


  1. oldlibrariansshelf - August 23, 2021 7:56 am

    Thanks for sharing so much of you!

  2. Joan Moore - August 23, 2021 9:49 am

    Glad you all made it safely home.

  3. mccutchen52 - August 23, 2021 9:51 am

    Funny how pets realize that a tongue across the face will help what ails you. God Bless ya’ll.

  4. Trudy Gale - August 23, 2021 11:34 am

    Precious in the sight of the Lord, is the death of his saints.
    Psalms 116:15
    This verse has helped me during the recent passing of my mother. Death is precious, for the one going home. I hope this will bless Jamie snd you. Prayers as you grieve.
    Thank you for sharing your experience with us. This has helped me tremendously. I look forward to reading your blog every morning. I’m about to finish, “Will the Circle be Unbroken.” Beautifully written. I feel like I know you all. I hate for the book to end.
    Give Jamie a hug from me, as I know exactly what she is going through and tell her everything is goi g to be alright.

  5. Bill Harris - August 23, 2021 11:39 am

    Thank you Sean.

  6. Bar - August 23, 2021 11:46 am

    Oh, the memories you stir …

  7. Bobby - August 23, 2021 11:46 am


  8. Robert L Chiles - August 23, 2021 11:49 am

    Perfect! You’ve captured so well what I always tried (as a pastor) to explain to folks about how your perspective on life shifts when your last parent dies. You are now fully the adult. It’s up to you to maintain and create the traditions. Having someone beside you who loves you is so important. You’re gong to make it.

  9. Lucretia Jones - August 23, 2021 11:50 am

    So good to go home. Thank you, Sean.

  10. Geri Worley - August 23, 2021 12:23 pm

    Thank you Sean and Jamie, for sharing your agony and ecstasy. Decompress, then live your lives. A job well done for a lady with a life well lived.

  11. Suellen - August 23, 2021 12:30 pm

    I’d never heard that about lifting your feet and holding your breath when you cross state lines. What fun! We live right on the state line between Indiana and Kentucky. Matter of fact my youngest daughter lives on the other side so I’m going to be doing that when we go back and forth now. I’m glad you made it safely home and had the welcoming committee there to meet you. Those fur babies know to give extra attention when your heart is hurting.

  12. Nancy Crews - August 23, 2021 12:47 pm

    ❤your writing. I am so happy you have each other.

  13. Molly - August 23, 2021 12:50 pm

    God bless and welcome home!

  14. Linda - August 23, 2021 12:56 pm

    So sorry for your loss, Sean and Jamie.
    Thank you for this column today.
    Life does go on. One step at a time ….

  15. Heidi - August 23, 2021 1:08 pm

    And so it begins……a new normal. Honestly, it’s going to kind of suck for awhile but then it will slowly get a little better. So glad you have your fur babies. Welcome home.

  16. Teri Easterling - August 23, 2021 1:19 pm

    💝🙏🏻 And life goes on, filled with love, laughter, and tears. Difficult, but doable. Hold on to the good memories as you make new ones.

  17. Karen Snyder - August 23, 2021 1:19 pm

    🧡 Life is definitely “full speed ahead” and it’s gonna happen whether we participate or not. Love it, live it, enjoy it. That’s exactly what she would want for you.

  18. Shelton A. - August 23, 2021 1:30 pm

    Welcome back home. Enjoy your pups! Live life to the fullest with no regrets.

  19. Shelton A. - August 23, 2021 1:32 pm

    Glad you and Jamie have each other…may your love for each other continue to grow. Blessings…

  20. Cheryl - August 23, 2021 1:43 pm

    There’s no place like home. Full of sweet memories of a beautiful lady. May God be with you both and fill your days with cherished wonderful memories.

  21. Donna from Iowa - August 23, 2021 1:56 pm

    Thanks for writing—even on the difficult days!!!!1

  22. Debbie g - August 23, 2021 2:05 pm

    As someone said. All you need is love ❤️
    And love to all 🙏🙏🙏❤️❤️❤️

  23. beachdreamer1 - August 23, 2021 2:10 pm

    Amen to all the comments. Beautifully written…Mother Mary would be pleased. You have such a way of painting a picture of what your words are expressing. Our furry friends are such a blessing…they seem to know when an extra lick would be helpful, would ease some pain. God bless you all.
    Your lives are waiting. Live them to the full. ❤️

  24. Judy - August 23, 2021 2:17 pm

    You love each other. Rest in that as you find your “new normal”. And count your blessings. 🌻

  25. Tammy S. - August 23, 2021 2:31 pm

    Nothing like the support of a deep love at the time of such a great loss! You are both in all our thoughts and prayers. And thankful that Mother Mary will live on in both your hearts, memories and the continued stories of such a classic lady. She may be gone on from here but her legacy is still very alive and well in you both. She was one of a kind.

  26. Kathy - August 23, 2021 2:36 pm

    Aren’t dogs terrific! I love you both, a fellow orphan

  27. Lucinda - August 23, 2021 2:44 pm

    Treasure your love for each other and find joy in all those mundane things like unmade beds. From your stories you both have no regrets concerning MM and your love and care for her. Plus you shared her with the world to love as well. Rest, regroup, go forth. 🙏🏼

  28. Tim - August 23, 2021 2:54 pm

    Well said! I just buried both my mom and dad this year…within three months of each other. Thanks for the reminder of what is important…living well together with Jesus!

  29. Rikki - August 23, 2021 2:55 pm

    So so so sweet Sean…..and I can relate to it all. Farewell Miss Mary.

  30. Christina - August 23, 2021 3:53 pm

    I love the ways you describe these moments. Sending TLC to Jamie and you.

  31. Anita Smith - August 23, 2021 4:27 pm

    This one hit me hard-Love it.

  32. Jesse - August 23, 2021 5:14 pm

    Thank you

  33. Lisa Barth - August 23, 2021 5:45 pm

    Thank you, Sean and Jamie, for allowing us to share in the journey of Mother Mary’s final days and homecoming. I grew to know her and to love her while reading about her in your columns, and I am sure I am not the only one. She was the combination of so many wonderful ladies I have known, who delight in loving on people (and feeding them!) Thank God for these precious women. Mother Mary will live on in the hearts of those of us who have treasured the words written about her and have loved her from afar. God bless you, sweet lady. May God give you peace and comfort, Sean and Jamie. You honored us by sharing this heart breaking, but sweet journey. with us,

  34. Sandy Laster - August 23, 2021 6:28 pm

    Please write about the superstition of lifting your feet crossing state lines. I haven’t heard that one. You could do a whole article of Southern superstitions.

  35. Gayle Wilson - August 23, 2021 6:59 pm

    Welcome back to Florida…with many memories to hold you a lifetime and people you and Jamie don’t even know who are praying for you.

  36. Linda Moon - August 23, 2021 7:04 pm

    Blue skies can sometimes make me cry. I’m silently saying lots of heartfelt stuff that includes love to you both, Jamie and Sean, but I’ll spare you a long thesis on love. I think you both have already graduated with honors into LIFE with losses. Now, from this Mama….get some rest and love on every living thing there with you. And keep loving with memories of Mama Mary for the rest of your lives.

  37. Robin - August 23, 2021 8:58 pm

    Beautiful, nuff said.

  38. MAM - August 23, 2021 10:55 pm

    Love of each other and from your dogs will soothe grieving hearts.

  39. flkatmom - August 23, 2021 10:58 pm


  40. Thelma Lou Woodruff - August 24, 2021 2:17 am

    I Love your New Story about Going Home. I’m glad Y’all are back home with Thelma Lou and Odis. It’s nice to have someone to Welcome You Home. Hope they help to ease your pain. God Bless Y’all. Oh by the way my name is Thelma Louise. 🙏🙏

  41. Carol ROTHWELL - August 24, 2021 8:32 pm

    You can’t say it
    Enough !!
    I love you ❤️

  42. K Mann - August 25, 2021 1:14 am

    So sweet! Love this. My mom is 94 and I know I will have to go through this some day😘

  43. CHARALEEN WRIGHT - August 25, 2021 5:44 pm

  44. Debbie - March 30, 2022 8:32 pm

    😢 🙏❤️


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